An E-2 investor visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows foreign investors to freely conduct business in the United States. Your investment may be for the purpose of establishing a new business venture or purchasing a pre-existing business. Because of the importance of the investment, many applicants are concerned with the E-2 visa processing time.
The goal for the E-2 visa processing time was stated to be two months by the USCIS. However, it may take more or less time depending on the consular post. To get a better understanding of your specific situation, it is recommended to seek legal guidance.
Having an E-2 investor visa can prove to be very beneficial for foreign investors as well as their spouses and children.
On E-2 visa, you may:
- Work legally in the company that is the investment vehicle in the U.S.
- Travel freely in and out of the U.S.
- Stay on a prolonged basis with unlimited two-year extensions as long as you maintain E-2 qualifications
- Be accompanied by your dependents under 21, relatives and spouse. Your spouse may also work while in the U.S. through an employment authorization document. Your dependents also may attend U.S. schools, colleges, and universities without having to apply for separate student visas.
How to Avoid a Prolonged E-2 Visa Processing Time
Before you move forward with your E-2 visa investment, you will need to fill out an I-129 after determining that you’re eligible for an E-2 visa. Unfortunately, documentation such as the I-129 form can easily be filled out incorrectly and/or submitted to the wrong location. This is the most common way people prolong their E-2 visa processing time.
The best method to ensure that your processing time isn’t delayed by any issues with your application is to take your time researching the E-2 visa requirements and consult a qualified immigration attorney.
Take a look at these requirements to determine if you qualify for an E-2 investor visa:
- You must be a national of a foreign country that has a treaty of commerce and navigation with the United States.
- You should have either invested or be investing a substantial amount of funds in a legitimate company within the U.S.
- As an investor, you must also own or be in control of at least 50% of the enterprise. This shows that you are entering the U.S. for the purpose of managing your investment.
Premium processing service is available for certain employment-based applications. It is important to note that electing for premium processing will cost an additional fee.
If your application is time sensitive, premium processing will expedite your E-2 visa processing time as applications with this option are the first to be addressed. The USCIS guarantees an E-2 visa processing time of 15 calendar days to those applicants who choose to use this service to shorten the process.
E-2 Visa Status Check
Once you have submitted your application, your E-2 visa processing time begins. While it is important that you keep track of the status, there is nothing you can do to speed up the process. With hundreds of applications being submitted every day, each possible E-2 visa holder should be patient.
You can stay on top of your application by using the USCIS’s online status check form. To track its progress, just enter your receipt number and it will pull up-to-date information on your application. The receipt number is a unique 13-character identifier that the USCIS provides for each application it receives.
Extend Your E-2 Investor Visa
E-2 visa holders and their dependents must renew their visas every two years to remain legal guests of the United States. As long as you maintain the necessary qualifications of your E-2 visa, there are no limits to the number of renewals.
It is important never wait until the last minute to renew your visa because it can negatively affect your traveling privileges as well as your investment.
In order to file for an extension of stay, you must submit:
- I-129 form, Petition for Non-immigrant Worker
- Form I-539, Application to Extend or Change Non-immigrant Status
- Copy of Form I-94 Arrival/Departure document
- Copy of original Form I-797, Notice of Action (if status was previously extended or approved)
- A passport copy plus E-2 visa
- Employer letter demonstrating why extension is required
- Copies of personal and business tax returns (prior 2 years) plus payroll tax returns
E-2 Visa to Green Card
Many people who get the E-2 visa hope to eventually immigrate permanently to the U.S. through a green card. While the E-2 visa is not a direct path to a green card, there are many options that might be available to you based on your circumstances.
Firstly, you can choose to get a green card through a family member who is a U.S. citizen or green card holder. However, if you have other options available to you, they may be more attractive due to the fact that the family-based green cards usually have long processing times and may require you to wait many years.
Another route is to obtain a green card through marriage. By marrying a U.S. citizen, you become an immediate relative, which means that a visa number is immediately available to you.
You can also choose to have an employer file on your behalf. The green cards in these categories have a shorter waiting time than family-based green cards, but there are several steps that the Department of Labor require in the interest of protecting U.S. jobs—namely, the PERM Labor Certification. However, if you are an E-2 visa holder, then it is unlikely that you have a sponsoring U.S. employer to file for you.
Therefore, here are the common green cards that are ideal for the shortest E-2 visa processing time:
EB-5: Perhaps the most germane green card to your E-2 visa. The EB-5 is designed for foreign investors to immigrate to the U.S. However, unlike the E-2, the investment amount required for the EB-5 is set by the USCIS. You must invest $1 million into a U.S. enterprise or $500,000 into a U.S. enterprise that is in a rural area or an area with high unemployment.
EB-2: Under normal circumstances, the EB-2 requires a PERM Labor Certification and a job offer. However, by applying for the National Interest Waiver (NIW), you can bypass those requirements to self-petition, which may be more in line with your E-2 situation. To qualify, you will need to show extensively that your work in the U.S. will benefit the country on several different levels and that you are qualified to advance the work.
EB-1A: This is the last employment-based visa that allows you to self-petition and also the least relevant to the average E-2 case. The EB-1A is for those that can demonstrate that they have extraordinary achievements such as international prizes, recognition by your peers in journals or papers, or a large salary, just to name a few of the criteria.
In any case, once you have decided on a green card, you (or your employer) must gather the documentation you need as evidence for your visa and submit it along with the appropriate petition for and the correct fees. Keep in mind that most employment-based green cards make use of the I-140 petition, though this is not the case for the EB-4 or EB-5. Family-based green cards use the I-130 petition.
The date that the USCIS receives your green card petition will be known as your priority date. Keep this date in mind as you move forward. You will need to keep a close eye on the monthly visa bulletin provided by the Department of State, which provides the “final action dates” according to your green card preference level and country of origin. Because there is a limited number of green cards available per country each year, these final action dates will move forward if the category is undersubscribed and can even move backward if the category is oversubscribed in a process known as retrogression.
If your category has a “C” in it, then your priority date will automatically be current and you will be able to move forward as soon as your petition is approved.
Once the final action date in your category reaches or passes your priority date, a visa number will become available and you will be able to take the final step in your E-2 visa to green card journey.
This final step can be one of two options:
Adjustment of Status – this is the simplest option and is only available to those who are already in the U.S. under a nonimmigrant status. Because you already have an E-2, all you would need to do to adjust your status is file an I-485 form and wait the six-month processing time. If approved, your status will change immediately and your green card will be mailed to you.
Consular Processing – You may opt instead to go through consular processing. This involves making an appointment with the U.S. Consulate or Embassy in your home country. There, you will participate in a one-on-one interview with a consular officer who will ask you questions to determine if your case is legitimate. While this may seem less convenient, it may be the cheaper option and also the faster alternative when it comes to your processing time.
Can The E-2 to Green Card Processing Time Be Shortened?
There are a few ways to make your processing time go faster than it normally would. One way is through premium processing, which is available for many employment-based green cards in the same way that it is doe the E-2 visa. However, it is not an option for certain employment green cards (such as the EB-1C or EB-5) nor is it an option for family- or marriage-based green cards.
Because waiting for your priority date to become current is often the longest portion of the E-2 to green card processing time, another option may be to “port” your green card status. This entails filing a new petition for a higher preference level while you already have a petition for a lower preference level pending with the USCIS. It means that you will have to start the process all over again (including getting a new PERM if that is required). However, you can retain your original priority date to shorten your processing time.
“Porting” a green card is a delicate and complicated process that is often met with rejection without the help of a highly-experienced attorney.
Contact Us To Expedite Your E-2 Visa Processing Time
If you have questions about the E-2 visa processing time, the requirements, or whether you qualify, you are not alone. Applying for a visa of any kind can be confusing and difficult to do on your own. That’s why it is always advisable to enlist the services of a qualified attorney.
The experienced lawyers at SGM Law Group can help you file an E-2 visa based on the USCIS and US Department of State guidelines. Contact us to begin your E-2 visa process and move forward with your E-2 visa investment in the United States.